Penn alumni are doing big things in the tech world. Caroline Klatt (C '11) has been the driving force behind an app that's still in testing––but hopefully launching soon––called Headliner. Hailing from Long Island, Caroline was the Editor-in-Chief of The WALK Magazine—helping to reinvigorate it after it went defunct years ago—and was President of the Penn Fashion Collective. She was also a member of the Sphinx senior honor society, went abroad to Beijing and majored in Communications. After graduating, she worked at McKinsey & Company in New York; now, she spends her time developing Headliner and getting it ready for public release.
I downloaded and went on Headliner before speaking to Caroline, and it was unlike any other app I've used. I initially noticed that it worked somewhat like a cross between Vine and Tinder; like Vine, the main content of the app is user–generated short video clips that loop, but like Tinder, you can swipe left on videos you don't want to see and swipe right on videos that you like. When you sign up, the app asks you what types of video content you'd be interested in seeing, such as entertainment, politics or lifestyle videos. There are also trending topics on the explore page which are denoted with a hashtag. After using it myself, I talked to Caroline about her vision for the app and more.
Headliner was created primarily with the intention of being a news outlet for young people who aren't as interested in traditional news formats, such as long–form journalism pieces or news that you watch on the TV (because come on, who still watches TV on a real TV anymore?). "That isn't really where I get my information from. I get information from friends and from social media and other user–generated content." Caroline explained her thinking behind the way that Headliner is designed as well, like a cross between social media and news. "But we felt that none of the platforms were optimized for having interesting conversations and discussions. Most of them are meant for messaging, or for posting great visuals. But when it comes to exchanging ideas and thoughts, there was no platform that facilitated putting thoughts out there and immediately engaging with a community of people about your ideas, whether they are reflections on the election, on fashion trends, on The Walking Dead or anything else."
Videos on Headliner, however, have a maximum length of 25 seconds (fucking millennials, am I right ladies???). However, according to Caroline, "Most videos are actually 18 seconds. So the videos are nice and short but they're enough time for someone to relay a piece of information and talk and convey a point of idea, as opposed to just a loop of something that's usually humorous."
Headliner is still in development, and has been coming together over the last six–to–seven months, which is super quick: "We have a great, amazing technical team, which is the most important foundation to any sort of tech startup, and so we built the app really quickly...once you find a good team of people, that's when things become easy and achievable. It's finding that team that's hard." Even though the app is still in beta, you can download it on the app store, and there's a growing community of avid users that "go on ten times a day, and the average users goes on multiple times per day. So we're seeing a lot of engagement, a lot of attention, a lot of enthusiasm. We actually recently had Ted Cruz join the app."
WHAT????? Yeah, you read that right. The Zodiac Killer Ted Cruz himself is on Headliner (so why aren't you?). This ties into the direction that users have been taking the app in: "We didn't launch with any particular topic in mind, but we've seen a lot of people talking politics. It's very political, and that's interesting to me because it speaks to this whole idea that young people who are informed and obviously interested in news and current events don't have an outlet where they can talk about these interests. There is no other great platform facilitating this kind of conversation, and so we feel like we've identified a really important need and serve a real purpose—it's been very validating."
So, long story short, if you're at all interested in news and hearing what other people have to say about news, you should really download Headliner. In the words of Caroline herself: "We really see it as the future of media."